Upon hearing that Canada had purposely destroyed the UN’s attempt to get access to clean water recognized as a basic human right, perhaps it is time for a critical expansion in the left to see the issue of rights as not limited to us two-legged, but encompass all living things.

With the term “living things”, I mean birds, animals, bugs and trees but also things that help accomplish and support life like water, rocks, ice and air, since everything has a spirit.

Don’t we all deserve to have clean water, whether we drink it, swim in it or we let water flow over our earthen body?

In an interdependent relationship between us and the planet, we must use disasters such as the BP gulf oil spill as a catalyst for change.

We must also be mindful of issues that impact Canada such as the Alberta Tar Sands and resource extraction in the arctic. These issues were brought forward during the G20 Summit on Environmental and Climate Justice Day.

First, let me talk about the right for all to clean water.

UN rejects water as basic human right: The Harper government can declare victory after a United Nations meeting rejected calls for water to be recognized as a basic human right.

Quote: The Harper government can declare victory after a United Nations meeting rejected calls for water to be recognized as a basic human right.

Instead, a special resolution proposed by Germany and Spain at the UN human rights council was stripped of references that recognized access to water as a human right. The countries also chose to scrap the idea of creating an international watchdog to investigate the issue, choosing instead to appoint a new consultant that would make recommendations over the next three years. 

According to a National Resources Defense Council report Climate Change, Water, and Risk,  climate change will have a significant impact on the sustainability of water supplies in the coming decades. The study found that more than 1,100 counties — one-third of all counties in the lower 48 – will face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming. More than 400 of these counties will face extremely high risks of water shortages.

Canada also refuses to ratify the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; making it one of four hold-outs which also includes Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

These two issues are linked since over 100 First Nations communities do not have access to clean water.

Case in point, Canada can spend $ 2 Million to build a fake lake but cannot afford to provide First Nations reserves with clean drinking water.

Meanwhile, as of May 31st, 2010, there are 118 First Nations communities across Canada under a Drinking Water Advisory.

So if Canada were to agree that access to clean water should be a human right, it would then be responsible and accountable to ensure clean drinking water to First Nations communities.

The link between Indigenous Justice and Environmental Justice has been revitalized through the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth

The Council of Canadians participated in the historic World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth, April 19-22, 2010 in Cochabamba Bolivia. The Conference brought together over 34,000 people representing social movements, indigenous peoples, organizations and governments for a dialogue on alternative proposals to the climate crisis.

The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth – which Bolvia intends to present to the United Nations – states in Article 2(1):

Mother Earth and all beings of which she is composed have the following inherent rights:

(a) the right to life and to exist;

(b) the right to be respected;

(c) the right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue its vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions;

(d) the right to maintain its identity and integrity as a distinct, self-regulating and interrelated being;

(e) the right to water as a source of life;

(f) the right to clean air;

(g) the right to integral health;

(h) the right to be free from contamination, pollution and toxic or radioactive waste;

(i) the right to not have its genetic structure modified or disrupted in a manner that threatens it integrity or vital and healthy functioning;

(j) the right to full and prompt restoration the violation of the rights recognized in this Declaration caused by human activities…

From that conference also came The People’s Agreement:

We propose to the peoples of the world the recovery, revalorization, and strengthening of the knowledge, wisdom, and ancestral practices of Indigenous Peoples, which are affirmed in the thought and practices of “Living Well,” recognizing Mother Earth as a living being with which we have an indivisible, interdependent, complementary and spiritual relationship.

To face climate change, we must recognize Mother Earth as the source of life and forge a new system based on the principles o

–harmony and balance among all and with all things;

–complementarity, solidarity, and equality;

–collective well-being and the satisfaction of the basic necessities of all;

–people in harmony with nature;

–recognition of human beings for what they are, not what they own;

–elimination of all forms of colonialism, imperialism and interventionism;

–peace among the peoples and with Mother Earth

You can also view: From Water Wars to the Fight for Climate Justice:
Pablo Solón on the Lessons of Cochabamba
on rabbletv.

Krystalline Kraus

krystalline kraus is an intrepid explorer and reporter from Toronto, Canada. A veteran activist and journalist for rabble.ca, she needs no aviator goggles, gas mask or red cape but proceeds fearlessly...